Thesis: Connecting National Wildlife Refuges with Green Infrastructure


Thesis of a Doctoral Dissertation by Jared Turcsanyi Bowman, University of Minnesota – St. Paul, 2008


Increasing human populations and extensive landscape alteration are reducing formerly massive natural settings and healthy ecological systems into smaller fragments.

There is a growing awareness that we must protect what remains of our natural heritage while also restoring the structure and functionality of our environmental systems. Traditional land conservation methods are frequently piecemeal, site specific, and narrowly focused, limiting their overall capacity to provide useful habitat and critical ecological services.

Furthermore, if long-term sustainability is to be successful, it must consider both human demands and animal needs. Green infrastructure, a new and growing paradigm for landscape-level planning that aims to integrate and combine natural resource conservation with human population growth, should be considered.

The core of green infrastructure planning, strategic conservation design, is used to define and implement interwoven networks of green and open spaces. This project will develop a case study in collaboration with the Sherburne and Crane Meadows National Wildlife Refuges on behalf of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The suitability models used to evaluate the prospects and obstacles of establishing green infrastructure networks between these two refuges in a contemporary Minnesota environment. The first part of this study is an analysis of present trends in land conservation planning, as well as mapping components of green infrastructure initiatives.

The biophysical and social suitability of green infrastructure development in the region between and surrounding these refuges are then evaluated with two GIS models. Green infrastructure analyses often yield a biophysical fit, but geographic modeling of social data is relatively new to this field of planning. Finally, a map of existing protected lands is used to contextualize the findings.

The models are intentionally basic, straightforward, and focus on a “rapid prototyping” approach. Modeling helps land conservation planning while acknowledging restrictions in current knowledge and available resources by providing support for modeling process.

These models provide a foundation for future augmentation, adaptation, and re-use based on the demands of local planning offices and land managing agencies.



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